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So, I just got two gerbils on the 16th. They have a four story cage with clear plastic in the front, and so far, everything seemed pretty normal. I put a sand bath in for them to bathe in, and then took it out after they were done. However, after I removed the sand bath, one of my gerbils ran to the top of the cage and started scratching like crazy at the corners and floor of the cage. He sometimes stops and relaxes a bit, but then he runs back up and starts scratching again. Is this normal?

The next night, both of my gerbils started gnawing at the cage walls and scratching at the ground in the same two corners. I tried putting chew toys at the corners they scratch at, but they just find a way to move the toy so the can keep scratching. I've looked up a lot about gerbil behavior, and I know that digging is normal and natural. I can't help but wonder if all of this scratching and gnawing is normal, though.

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  • Please clarify: does he scratch himself or the corner of the cage? If he scratches himself, is it one particular spot or the whole body?
    – Elmy
    Dec 17 '18 at 7:07
  • He is scratching at the corners and floor of the cage.
    – A. S.
    Dec 17 '18 at 20:37
  • Related rabbit question, My rabbit is digging at the carpet in the corner of the living room, what should I do? I am not a gerbil expert so not sure if the answers there work for you. In rabbits this can be a sign of boredom. Dec 18 '18 at 12:42
  • They've starting gnawing on the cage as well. It's mostly just at night, and now both of them are doing it. They're also doing it all night long.
    – A. S.
    Dec 18 '18 at 16:26
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I am not a gerbil expert, but boredom is an issue that impacts many animals.

You can leave the sand bath in their cage all the time.

You can increase the number of toys (and change them occasionally).

You can exercise them before bedtime (i.e. a run about ball).

It mostly comes down to enrichment, if you can keep their mind and body more active they will be happier and less destructive/annoying.

We have some related questions tagged gerbil that might also help you.

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Mine do it when they are making their beds and determining what bed location would be best or setting fast pathways to their favored locations. They like to dig and as soon as I added more depth to their cage, they don't do it as much. It is normal for them to dig around and they will make pathways for themselves. I don't use normal bedding for mine but potting soil and some sand and bedding. They have different textures to dig in and sleep or go to the bathroom in and seem to like this change I made. They pick the corner they like the most. If you need to get them to stop you can spray a bit of vinegar. They should calm down and choose a different corner to make into their bed. It is not a permanent solution and my guys eventually don't mind the smell lol. But if you give them enough to do they will stop. Also, I let mine out to play on occasions and they scratch to let me know they want out. I keep mine in a 30-gallon tank, I have plywood for a second floor and branches to climb on and chew. I take a small fish net and they have learned to associate that with fun and being moved. I find they are smart critters and they get bored so providing enough playtime and stimulus (but not too much) can be very healthy for them. It should be something you plan out and potentially do daily. Just like dogs they need time away to explore and get to know you. Just make sure to put a rug under your door so they don't escape or chew at it. Anything you don't want them to chew like power cords and books take them to a place they cannot reach. Also, they can jump and climb very well so make sure to keep things high enough. My boys can jump about 13-14 inches which is a bit crazy to me.

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